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Unmanned systems 2014 – U.S. research agency DARPA is developing an advanced UAV communications system that will enable reliable, continuous and high quality transfer of gathered intelligence data.

Image: DARPA
Image: DARPA

Missions in remote, forward operating locations often suffer from a lack of connectivity to tactical operation centers and access to valuable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data. The assets needed for long-range, high-bandwidth communications capabilities are often unavailable to lower echelons due to theater-wide mission priorities.

DARPA’s Mobile Hotspots program aims to help overcome this challenge by developing a reliable, on-demand capability for establishing long-range, high-capacity reachback that is organic to tactical units. The program is building and demonstrating a millimeter-wave communications system mounted on small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). DARPA recently completed the first phase of the project, in which they developed and tested key technologies that will be integrated into a complete system and flight tested in subsequent phases.

iHLS – Israel Homeland Security

We’re pleased with the technical achievements we’ve seen so far in steerable millimeter-wave antennas and millimeter-wave amplifier technology,” said Dick Ridgway, DARPA program manager. “These successes are key to providing forward deployed units with the same high-capacity connectivity we all enjoy over our 4G cell-phone networks.”

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Project engineers are currently developing smaller, more compact antennas suitable for UAVs. The hardware for the new communication system will by rugged, able to withstand UAV flight. The system will be compact enough to fit into small, light and powerful payloads.

In the next phase the system will be tested on ground vehicles, with flight tests scheduled for the third – and last – phase.

Source: DARPA website.